It’s been a few years since I’ve had any vegetables in my raised beds, so today I went out and spent a bunch of money. Here’s the layout:

I’m sticking with tomatoes, peppers, and garlic in the main bed. I want stuff that will grow without too much intervention, like thinning or pruning, and that I know I will eat.

Then I built a mini-greenhouse out of garden stakes, zip ties, 3-mil sheeting, and 1x2s:

Since I’m cooking so much more than I used to, I want herbs that won’t go bad in the refrigerator between uses, so I’m going to try a windowsill herb garden. Left to right I have oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil:

Last, I cleared out part of the bed over by the work shed and planted strawberries. I may clear out the rest of the bed and plant either raspberries or more strawberries.

And now to go inside and sit in my comfy chair before I get too much fresh air poisoning.

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At some point, you just have to wonder if the previous owners crossed the line from “blithering idiot” to “criminally insane”.

Since my roommate moved out, I’m going to break down the wall between his room (my old room) and his boys’ room (the former library, TV room, etc.) and make one big 20’x15′ bedroom. You can see the first step here:

However, just like when I tried to remove part of a heating duct last month, I find that I’m going to have to break the existing structure back further and further until I almost might as well just gut the whole thing right now.

For instance, inside the wall hidden by the door in the foreground, is this nonsense:

Hidden junction box, weird connector, individual conductors stripped out of the sheath and passed through holes, and (not pictured) wires in a notch between a 2×4 and the drywall with no protector plate.

I’m ever more convinced that the previous owners (ptui) wired up the addition with a bunch of 6′-8′ lengths of wire they got surplus and just connected together any old how. At least they’re not just wire-nutted together end-to-end hidden inside the wall, like I found before when I was wiring up the hall lights.

And it looks like they built the wall between the rooms and then put in the ceilings. There’s all this structure between the beams and attached to the roof deck up inside the ceiling, that to remove and insulate the cavity, I’m probably going to have to remove a couple of feet of drywall on either side of the joint. And pretty much rebuild the wall that’s got all the weird electrical in it as well.


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Lilac Down!

Jen stopped by the other day and pointed out that one of the lilacs against the retaining wall at the front of the property had fallen over.

Turns out all the main trunks of the middle lilac were completely rotten and mostly hollow.

I’m starting to wonder if maybe lilacs just aren’t supposed to get to tree size, since the lilac in the side yard that was twenty feet tall with a 10″ trunk was also rotten and hollow before I cut it down. In any case, I pulled out the rest of that lilac, and what’s left is a whole bunch of 1/4″ shoots coming up from the ground next to the stump, so I guess those are fine.

Honestly, I’m starting to wonder if maybe I just shouldn’t pull them all out and replace them with something that’s going to do a better job of screening and will look nicer. They’re not particularly pretty even when they’re in bloom, and they’re kind of thin and unruly, and evidently if they continue on they’ll rot and fall over anyway. I suppose I could fertilize them and see if they perked up and came in better, but I suspect I’d just end up fertilizing the morning glory and blackberries that keep trying to take over that bed.

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Apparently My House Has A Style


I always thought of this house as having no particular architectural style at all, having been knocked together by a penurious homeowner in the early Depression out of whatever materials came to hand.

Apparently that applies to about a million other houses built around the same time, and behold! it has a named style after all:

Minimal Traditional is a style of architecture that emerged in mid 20th century America as a vernacular form that incorporates influences from earlier styles such as American Colonial, Colonial Revival, Spanish Revival, Tudor Revival, and American Craftsman while adhering to modern architecture‘s avoidance of ornament.

The Minimal Traditional style evolved during the 1930s and was a dominant style in domestic architecture until the Ranch-style house emerged in the early 1950s. Descending in part from the bungalows, cottages, and foursquare houses of the early 20th century, Minimal Traditional houses represent a “stripped-down version of the historic-eclectic styles popular in the 1920s”. They are usually detached single-family houses that are on the smaller side and retain simplified versions of the built-in cabinets that were popular features of the Craftsman era. Typical features include hipped or gabled roofs without much in the way of eaves; cladding in locally popular materials such as wood, brick or stone; small porches; and an asymmetrical design with the front door set off center.

The Minimal Traditional house “fulfilled aesthetic and social needs for affordable single-family housing” and was used by the Federal Housing Administration as a prototype for a “minimum house that the majority of American wage earners could afford”.

Minimal Traditional houses have been tagged with some other names: FHA house, Depression-era cottage, Victory cottage, and American small house.


Other links:

Minimal Traditional Style — 1925 to 1950

Minimal Traditional Architecture

Google Images

Of course, people have been poking it with a stick since at least the 1960s, and now it’s kind of a mishmash. I have some plans for bringing it back into stylistic harmony (mainly replacing the flat roof with a gable matching the existing one, and a porch across the front), but I could extend the overhangs and nail brackets on it all day long and it’d never be a bungalow.

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Many Changes

It’s been over two and a half years since the last post to this blog, and there have been several reasons why.

First, we were going to sell the house, and while we were working like crazy to get it fixed up I didn’t want to be posting about all the stupid things I discovered along the way, in case any potential buyers stumbled across this blog and were put off by all the fixer-upper issues.

Then, we decided not to sell the house and stay in it for at least another year, but I got busy with work, and Thekla was in kindergarten, and Jen and I were having problems with our marriage and we “internally separated” while we continued with counseling.

To no avail, sadly. In mid-2015, Jen decided that she wanted a divorce, and she moved out in August of that year (back to the house we rented before we bought this one). We quite amicably decided all of our issues with the assistance of an arbitrator, and quickly worked out a 50-50 custody plan for Thekla, but nevertheless it was not what I wanted, and I was quite depressed for a long time.

I knew I wanted to keep the house, though, and before the divorce was final I refinanced in my name only with a large cash-out, which I gave to Jen as part of the divorce settlement, to compensate her for spending all of her stock options trying to fix the place up.

I’ve had a roommate since Jen moved out, and although the income bump was nice we never really became friends since basically we had nothing at all in common. He’s moving out at the end of the month, and I’m going to see if I can make a go of it without a roommate/rent check. (This will un-fill one of the bedrooms, which will let me live in one while working on the other.)

I didn’t do much work on the house last summer, although I bought a pressure washer and cleaned virtually every square inch of concrete on the property. I’ve started working on the house again in earnest since the first of the year, though, and posting on Facebook about it, since this WordPress instance has had some issues that I only just got around to fixing.

I’ll be posting here again shortly as I bring this blog up to speed with what’s been going on. I’m back to being excited about the renovations, and I’ve been formulating lots of plans, as well as putting together lists on and the like. A measuring tape is never far from my hand.


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Casa de ‘Not lovin’

So for those that follow this blog, you will all notice that there has been a long break in updates. Sometime last year I fell out of love with our old house. Enough so that I convinced my husband that we should sell it. It had felt too hard trying to make friends in our area. I was tired of the constant work needed to make this old house somewhere I wanted to be. We literally almost killed ourselves trying to get our house on the market this summer. Summer came and the work wasn’t done. Our daughter enters kindergarten this fall and we were starting to hit the point of knowing that we would be starting her in school down here and then moving her to a new school a month or two into the year. This started feel like a really bad idea and wasn’t something I wanted to put her through.

We made the decision to hold off till next summer and re-access at that point. Then we settled in for a little bit. I noticed how much nicer everything was. How much more it felt like a home. Then we hosted for the 4th of July, and everyone came. All the friends that we have made in the last 6 years. All of our friends from our neighborhood that we wanted to move back to. Then I realized that we could combine the two. That we would actually be losing something if we did move away.

I got a little bit of the love back. I don’t know if we are going to stay after next summer. But what I will say I like our house more than I have in a long time. I am enjoying the improvements that we have made and I am having fun doing new ones. So look forward to more posts, and seeing the improvements we have made and are making.

Our past

And now to our future.

The yard

We have been working on cleaning up our yard since we bought it. Here are links to the before and afters. We still have a long way to go, except now it’s more beautification than anything else.



If I could lift my arms I would pat myself on the back..

I have really been struck lately that the work that we are doing on the house lately feels a lot more enjoyable. For years in this house it was fixing dangerous things that the previous left behind. It was expensive and frustrating. It was years of ‘have to’.. Have to fix this, have to repair this, have to get this debris taken out..

Now if feels like we are starting to do things that we are enjoying. We are changing the way we look at our home and appreciating it more. It feel less ‘I hate that we have to do this!!!’ and more ‘Look how awesome that is!’

We have a chainlink fence that I really dislike, but replacing it is so far down the list I can’t even fathom doing it. The handrail coming down into the yard was all rusted. It started out with me painting the handrail, then I painted the gate, I thought it looked beautiful.

Then I looked over and saw that a cast iron bench I owned was looking a bit shabby.


I was showing off the gate to Bryan and he casually mentions that it would look nice if we painted the entirety of the front fence. I did some research and got a deep-napped roller and managed to cover most of the fence and me in paint.
But it looks awesome!

It’s about as pretty as you can make chainlink.

Then last week I found a bench swing that was in pretty rough shape. Bought it and it too got the shiny-azations!

I laughed with the husband this weekend that everything at the house was going to eventually be black and shiny, once a goth always a goth. 🙂

Sometimes you have big improvements

And sometimes it’s little tiny steps that make your home better. We have two large picture windows that had blinds that were left in the house from the previous owner. I have always hated blinds. They are ugly and.. well ugly. I wish I could find the words to discuss my hatred but it’s irrational and who can put that sort of thing into words. Something always took priority over spending the money on the rods and curtains. It adds up so very fast.

But this weekend I put my foot down and my house is more beautiful because of it.

Also this winter we took down our pear tree which we knew we wanted to add in some shade structures if we actually wanted to be able to host anything in the summer. So my husband but everything together with some assistance from our four year old.

It was easy to assemble, seems sturdy, has little lights and a solar panel. You can get it from Bed Bath & Beyond.

We are also getting a long rectangular structure that we hope to be able to leave up over winter too so that the kiddo can play outside more even on rainy days. Not that I think that she will melt but I would like somewhere to hang out too.

I am having a hard time because we have decided not to do any big projects but I am being project nickled and dimed. The only person putting the pressure on myself to be consistantly doing something is me. I know that in the end I immediately benefit from the work we do, but I envy those homeowners that are more than happy just to reside in their home and not constantly be poking it with a stick. It just never stops.

I just need to work harder on finding a healthy balance.

Recent Developments

First, a couple of months ago, I cut down our pear tree. The pears were terrible (although a neighbor who knew the twice-previous owner says they used to be great), and we had to spend the whole late summer and fall picking the damn things up or else the yard smelled like a brewery. The yard looks so much more open now, but we’ll have to get a shade structure for July 4. Unfortunately, while we got rid of the logs (and I kept a big chunk for woodworking someday), we’ve still got a huge pile of sticks and branches in the back driveway waiting for the day we can rent a chipper. Then we have mulch. Lots of mulch.


Second: for months Jen has been bugging me to put a safety railing around the basement access stairs, so that little girls playing in the back yard wouldn’t risk falling in. I finally had the time and cash to do it. Unfortunately it was pouring rain the whole weekend.

Here’s the original situation, with the chicken wire fence I originally put up as a stopgap a couple of years ago:


Here’s the materials: two 8′ cedar fence panels and six 8′ pressure treated 2x4s, as well as gate hardware and deck screws. (I love deck screws, especially the ones with the specialty head that doesn’t cam out, and I will never never try to use those zinc-plated Home Depot screws again. Ever.)


Holes are dug for the fence posts, about 20″ deep.


The fence is assembled. I was able to do most of this on the shed/workshop floor out of the rain, but of course I mismeasured slightly so I had to go back and re-cut the ~2′ piece that extended the 8′ panel.


According to Roger Cook, burying a length equal to 1/3 of the fence height should anchor it sufficiently, but I had a bucket full of concrete mix sitting around, so I poured it into the holes.


And here’s the fence put up, with the holes filled in. It only wiggles a little bit, well within tolerable limits.


I knew I would have to put the gatepost against the wall instead of suspending it off the end of the fence, but the downspout as built by Bob the Handyman way back when we bought the house was in the way. So I bought some tube and elbows and diverted it.


And here’s the gatepost, built up out of 2x4s. And that’s where I ran out of time (and energy, having been working out in the rain all weekend).


The following week, I was able to put up the gate. Unfortunately, the pickets did not fall in a good pattern for the necessary gate width, so I pulled them all off the rails and re-spaced them. Again, Home Depot screws suck, but I happen to have a box of galvanized roofing nails just the right size and used those to put the thing back together. Attaching the hinges and gate hardware was straightforward and easy.


Last: the next weekend I replaced our faucet. Not only did the old one drip like crazy, but the replacement sprayer leaked whenever the faucet was on, causing a water-hammer-like shudder in the flow. So I looked around Home Depot for a better one, that had a single handle, ceramic cartridge, and pull-out sprayer, at a decent price.


At first I installed it with the handle to the side like in the show model, but only after it was completely installed did I realize that the faucet was too close to the backsplash to allow for full motion of the handle. I took the whole thing out again and was about to pack it up and exchange it for a different model, when I noticed that there were little alignment flanges on the bottom that allowed for the handle to be in a front position as well as a side position. So I put the whole thing back in again.

Of course I got wet, and my arms got sore from working in gorilla-arm position, and at some point I dropped a screwdriver from arm’s length onto my forehead. Ow.

Next: Even though we’re planning to get rid of the garage, in the short term we want to keep the animals out, so I have to close off the old rotted garage door. I’ve had the composite panels since last summer, but I picked up the 2x4s at the same time as the gate stuff.


I also got replacement siding to fill in the holes around the new windows and where I closed in the door from Thekla’s bedroom. It doesn’t quite match the 1930(?)-vintage siding on the rest of the house, but at least it won’t be tarpaper. I really want to rip all the siding off the house — vinyl and otherwise — and replace it with Hardiplank, but that’s going to be a long time from now.

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